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Permanent Marker on Plastic Tips and Tricks

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Sometimes permanent marker isn’t so permanent! So, how do you label your classroom items? Find out how to keep permanent marker on plastic.

Labeling Plastic Items

What do you do when you want to label an item? Grab a permanent marker!

Unfortunately, permanent marker does not last on plastic.

The smooth surface causes the permanent marker to wipe right off as soon as any finger touches it.

That is most unfortunate for teachers, since plastic items are everywhere you look in a classroom.

From math manipulatives to storage bins to marker boxes, you need to be able to label these plastic items.

So, if traditional permanent markers are failing you, we’ve got the solution to keep your classroom organized.

Here are some tips for permanently labeling plastic items.

Permanent Marker on Plastic Tips and Tricks

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Writing on Plastic

If you want to write on plastic (for example, using a permanent marker on plastic), try these solutions.

Oil-Based Markers

Oil-based markers, often called paint pens, are designed to be durable and resist rubbing off.

They adhere to plastic better than water-based permanent markers (like traditional Sharpies).

Check out this colorful pack!

Nail Polish

Who says you have to use pens?

Nail polish adheres well to plastic.

Try writing with black nail polish (or white nail polish on dark plastic).

Engraver Pen

Why struggle with permanent marker on plastic? Engrave it instead!

This engraver pen works on metal, ceramic, and–you guessed it–plastic.

It comes with stencils so you can easily trace letters, numbers, and shapes.

Permanent Marker on Plastic Tips and Tricks

Making Writing on Plastic Adhere

These methods will ensure that your permanent marker stays permanent on plastic.

Scratch the Surface

Plastic’s smooth and shiny surface is why permanent marker wipes right off.

Use sandpaper to file down the surface a bit before you write on it.

This four-pack of sanding blocks contains easy-to-grip blocks and comes in multiple grits, from fine to coarse.

Clear Nail Polish Coat

You can use traditional permanent markers on plastic if you provide a protective coating.

After your marker dries, paint a thin coat of clear nail polish on top.

ModPodge Coat

ModPodge is not just for decoupage.

This finisher should be painted on top of the permanent marker.

Use this matte finish ModPodge to reduce glare and make the writing more legible.

Permanent Marker on Plastic Tips and Tricks

Clear Tape

Clear tape protects the permanent marker writing from smearing.

You can use clear gift tape or the wider roll of clear packing tape.

Clear Cover Spray Paint

Rustoleum Clear Cover Spray Paint in a matte finish will provide a protective coating over your permanent marker writing.

Labeling Plastic Without Writing Directly on It

Although permanent marker on plastic does not last forever, you can use some workarounds.

Dot Stickers

Dot stickers are an inexpensive sticker option.

You can stick these colorful dots on plastic and then write on the dots.

These are perfect for labeling tiny items like manipulatives.

Paper and Tape

You can always skip writing altogether and print your labels on paper.

Then place clear tape (like clear packing tape) overtop your label.

Permanent Marker on Plastic Tips and Tricks

Cricut Vinyl Decals

If you have access to a Cricut Smart Cutting Machine, custom vinyl decals are the way to go.

This option takes a little more time, but it also looks the most professional.

This is an excellent option for bins that face out (and ones you will use year after year).

The self-adhesive vinyl sheets come in every color under the sun.

How to Get Permanent Marker Residue Off Plastic

If you have tried and failed to keep permanent marker on plastic, you may have a smeary mess of marker on your plastic surface.

Before you try one of the previous solutions, you will want to remove the permanent marker residue to have a clean surface.

You can use one of these four options.

Rubbing Alcohol

Running alcohol dissolves the water-based ink in a permanent marker.

Wipe the surface with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. Then, rub the marker with a microfiber cloth.

Dry Erase Marker

Dry-erase markers contain rubbing alcohol, which can help remove permanent marker from plastic.

Scribble over the permanent marker with the dry-erase marker.

Then, rub it with a microfiber cloth.

Permanent Marker on Plastic Tips and Tricks

Hydrogen Peroxide

If you have a small plastic item (like a manipulative) with a permanent marker, you can soak it in hydrogen peroxide for a few minutes.

Then, use an old toothbrush to scrub off the marker.

Magic Eraser

Magic erasers are practically magical.

Their mild abrasion means they can remove stains without damaging the surface.

This durable variety of Magic Eraser will stand up to the frequent rubbing you’ll need to remove all traces of permanent marker from plastic.

How to Use Permanent Marker on Plastic in the Classroom

You need to label your plastic items and storage bins; that’s a fact.

When a traditional permanent marker on plastic fails you, try one of these solutions.

Your classroom will soon be perfectly labeled and organized!

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